President Donald Trump suggested Wednesday that he could turn the ongoing government shutdown into a political issue in next year’s presidential election, labeling “Radical Democrats” as a “party of open borders and crime.”
Trump’s White House is in the midst of stalled efforts to reopen portions of the federal government that shuttered late last year after the president refused to sign legislation to fund them. But even as the government remained mired in the longest shutdown in the nation’s history, the president signaled that he will look to make political hay out of Democrats’ unwillingness to meet his demands for $5.7 billion in funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“It is becoming more and more obvious that the Radical Democrats are a Party of open borders and crime,” he claimed in a tweet. “They want nothing to do with the major Humanitarian Crisis on our Southern Border. #2020!”
The president has long insisted that a border wall, his signature campaign promise from 2016, is the only solution to what his administration has labeled as the crisis of drugs and migrants flowing across the nation’s southern border. Democrats, led by newly installed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have refused to appropriate any money for the president’s border wall, insisting instead that any border funding be directed toward other security priorities.
That impasse has fueled a shutdown that is now in its 26th day and affects 800,000 federal workers, some of them furloughed, while others, including Coast Guard members and TSA agents, have remained at work without pay.
Trump’s signal that he will make the shutdown a 2020 issue came as the field of Democratic challengers has just begun to form. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York announced Tuesday that she would run for president, joining Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, former West Virginia state Sen. Richard Ojeda, and Reps. John Delaney of Maryland and Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii in the Democratic field.
None of the announced Democratic candidates have supported Trump’s demands for a wall. Many have instead argued that a border wall would be an inefficient use of funds that could be better spent on other priorities at the border, such as erecting fences, hiring more immigration judges and Border Patrol agents, and investing in technology to monitor the border.